I’ll admit it…I made a promise to keep my blog updated with at least one post per week…and I have failed miserably. Maybe it is because when I sit down to write something…I feel as though I have to write something substantial, something that has meaning. Isn’t that what blogging is all about? The question is, who should the post have meaning to? I’m not a well know blogger. I don’t run ad supported content on my site and use it as a means to generate revenue (much to the dismay of my spam comment posters). I blog to get ideas and themes out of my head and onto a piece of digital canvas so I can see if they have any promise or interest to others reading this post. I’ll tell you what…this particular posting won’t be relevant to most…most won’t care…but I believe most have been in my same position.
Why haven’t I updated my blog more frequently? I don’t know. I guess it could be that I am super busy at work…or that with 2 boys at home (2 1/5 and 4 months) my time in the evenings is spent putting kids to bed and making dinner…or that the 3 hours I spend daily on the train commuting to and from work I just want to spend vegging out with as little brain power as possible. With all of that…there is always 10 or 15 minutes available where I could be getting ideas down on paper. There is always a post waiting to be written. Maybe it is a result of the form that I chose to build my blog in…using WordPress instead of Tumblr…maybe that makes it more difficult or puts more pressure on me to write coherent pieces, but that is just an excuse.
SO my commitment is to keep this blog going. To post at least once per week…and to keep things going. I”ll talk about anything and everything…within reason…so if you’d like to suggest a topic…please feel free!
If you’ve participated in any sport…regardless of if was a competitive event…a school yard race…or even a timed exam…we’ve all heard the 3…2…1…Go! I’ve been thinking over the last couple of days about what I was going to write about next. There are hundreds of email topics I could write about…Halloween with my two sons…a Mom’s (or “Mum’s” as BK would call it) competition we’ve got coming up at BKAthletics this weekend…all of which would produced quality posts. But getting to the box this morning at around 5:30…preparing for a 10 minute all out row on the concept 2 rower for calories…I couldn’t help but think about what would go down when I heard that 3…2…1…Go!
It got me thinking about what goes through someone’s head…in this particular instance an athlete…when they hear those numbers count down. It could be 3…2…1…or it could be “on your marks…get set” it could be many things but what goes through the mind in anticipation of that start. Then coming into work this morning…I couldn’t help thinking about how that starting phrase applies to daily working life. Do we still have that 3…2…1…in our working lives? Is there still that same anticipation for an event or action that drives each one of us to do our best?
For me…as I prepare for that starting call…what goes through my mind is all about the race, event, or challenge. It is running through the game plan…and then like Kevin Costner stated in the baseball epic (joking…though only baseball movie my wife will sit through)…I do my best to “clear the mechanism”. It is what Costner does on the mound while pitching to remove all the noise…all the distraction that you might be facing from the outside and forces you to focus on the task at hand. I’ve found that for me…the ability to obtain and maintain that focus is crucial for success. I never was the fastest…I never was the smartest…but if I could be the most focused…I could and can compete at anything I put my mind to…business…sports…life. It is when someone loses this focus they are not able to perform to their greatest potential. Now…of course I don’t have evidence to back up that statement…but it rings true based on my personal experience…how about you?
Writing this post has got me thinking about all of the places where my focus is lacking. There are not many…but there are definitely a few. Hey…we’re all human…we can’t be perfectly focused on everything that we do. Life is full of distractions…and frankly some of those distractions are the best moments in life. You don’t need to hear that 3…2…1…GO! to drive your focus. All that is…is a cue..a signal…a beginning…it is a prompt goading your mind into to removing all distractions and forcing you to get down to the business at hand.
What could you accomplish if you maintained your focus all day long? If you weren’t distracted by email…or surfing the web…or even writing a blog post? What would you do differently…how would your life be different?
(Writers note: over excessive use of … in this post…sorry…just love the ellipse!)
So a crash of my Macbook has got met writing this entire post over again. While annoying…it also is the ultimate proofread. It allows you to go back and think about what you are writing and have already written and try to improve upon it. Your words have already been put to paper…or WordPress…once before and you can now really think about what it is you truly want to say. In thinking about this post…and all of the posts I write on this blog…I think that being an honest writer is the most important thing for me. I throw this out on the table because I am about to go on a rant about email marketing and just wanted to be clear to all those reading who may not know my background just where I am coming from.
I’ve been in email marketing for about 10 years. A long time for sure…but I know plenty who have been in the field longer. For all of those ten years I have been on the client side of the email relationship…always playing a support role to a companies email efforts. I’ve setup and deployed campaigns for some of the largest companies out there. I’ve sent campaigns to 50 people…I’ve hit the send button on campaigns to 5 million people. But I’ve never been that person on the client side that is ultimately responsible for the performance of these campaigns. I’ve been in thousands of meetings, to hundreds of industry events, and even some boondoggles…I mean trade shows…in those ten years and it still amazes me that the industry is still talk about the same topics and trends that they were talking about when I sent my first email campaign on behalf of a client. The topics of dynamic content, deliverability, spam, content relevancy, and my personal favorite…automated messaging still dominate the airways when discussing email marketing programs. When are marketing, IT, and operations groups at companies going to understand how valuable email marketing is to their organizations. Email is an essential tool in helping to nurture and retain customers. I’ve seen recent metrics out in the market that it can cost anywhere between 5 and 15 times more to acquire a new customer when compared to the cost to keep an existing. Email is that tool that allows this to be so cost effective!
I tend to get a lot of email…and there is one company that I believe knows this and at least is making efforts to expand their new offerings to existing customers. I’ve been a Diapers.com customer for over two years now. As a father of two boys…we go through a lot of diapers. While their email program consists of a few promotional emails a week…not great…but at least it isn’t ever day like some others I know of…but they have done a great job at introducing their new sister brands to me as a loyal customer. Soap.com, Wag.com, and now YoYo.com are now all destinations I visit when I am looking for anything related to my kids, my dog, my personal hygiene, all as a result of their email campaigns doing a great job at providing me value as an email recipient. The fact that orders across all four sites can be combined to reach that $50 order minimum for free next day shipping…even better. They have done a great job at letting their existing customers know what value they have to offer and are building increased loyalty among their subscriber base.
There are a lot of simple things that marketers can do with email to help boost their bottom line. First thing is to actually have and execute on an email marketing plan. Don’t just batch and blast unless there is a determined strategy against that type of effort. Create automated triggers to your email recipients…the easiest being the automated welcome campaign. One of the best performing email campaigns you can send is that immediate confirmation to a new registrant..huge engagement metrics off of that campaign. Lastly…listen to what your email recipients are telling…either directly or indirectly. Monitor your open and clicks and most importantly your opt-out rate…all metrics of engagement to see how your recipients are really receiving your message.
Thanks for listening to my rant…hope you got at least a few tidbits from my diatribe.
Of recent there have been a lot of articles posted online or printed in magazines regarding the phenomenon that is CrossFit and its recent peak in popularity. Traditional health and fitness staples such as Men’s Health, Self, and numerous others have all offered their perspective on CrossFit and it’s “constantly varied, high-intensity, functional movement” prescription for losing weight and getting in shape. It is no secret that I myself have been doing CrossFit for over a year…and I love every second of it. Most media outlets have viewed the dedication that those have to CrossFit as they view members participating in a cult. Is CrossFit a cult? What is a cult? What does that exactly mean? Why does everyone have such a negative connotation around the word “cult”?
Whenever I find myself looking for understanding of a particular word…I resort to looking at a definition of the word to provide a basis for my understanding. Being that I haven’t even seen a dictionary in the last 5 years…I’ve resorted to dictionary.com as my go to destination for all things definition. When I enter the word “cult” into the browser…here is what is provided as the definition:
If you read my previous post you would know that I commute into NYC every day for work. My office is business casual and as a result my closet is loaded with dress shirts, pants and suits to wear into the office. A good number of those pieces of clothing are from Jos. A. Bank (JAB). These purchases are a result of the constant barrage of emails from JAB to my inbox every morning. Every morning I get up for work…pick up my BlackBerry off of the night stand and review the emails that have come in while I was a sleep. Like clockwork there is always an email from JAB with touting their latest deal or promotion. I skim through the subject line…and then most days just highlight all, delete, and move on with my day.
As a disclaimer my company does not send the email campaigns for JAB…wish we did…but we don’t. One email that I do tend to open everyday is the one I receive from JAB. Not because I am someone who shops for clothes everyday…but because I am one that tends to look for a bargain. When it comes to bargains…there are few who offer as many and as varied as JAB. My personal favorite is their buy one get two free promotion. When that deal rolls out you will definitely find me in the store looking for something to fill out my closet. Which brings me a long way around to getting at the point of this post. Almost as consistent as their emails to my inbox…I visit my local JAB store after hearing about every buy one get two free (BOGTF) promotion they offer. I don’t purchase every time but when I do I tend to get an email thanking me for my purchase from the sales rep that assisted me. This is a great touch…but also presents a missing opportunity.
If JAB were really paying attention to their promotions and sales…they would see that I am one who looks for a deal. Someone who consistently purchases during a certain promotion and build a campaign an series of messages tailored to my buying habits. I am certainly not the only one of their email customers that gets into the store when the BOGTF promotion comes around. Certainly there are other trends and patterns they can utilize to help build personas on their email audience. If there is one thing that we speak to our customers about more than anything it is the fact that relevancy in email boosts the response generated from an outbound email campaign. We currently have an online retailer that has implemented simple spotlight image personalization in their emails based on previous purchase data and it has increased their promotional email click-through rate by 17%. It is time for companies to move away from the batch and blast mentality and start listening to what their customers are telling them both directly and indirectly.
Sure…you can throw anything against a wall and there is the potential for something to stick…Jos. A. Bank does it and they get me into the store every once in a while…but truly relevant personalized communication to an email audience provides an opportunity to boost engagement and loyalty while also increasing the bottom line. Let’s stop blasting and start sending email.
If you read my last post then you know that my wife and I have recently added a son to our growing brood. Charlie William has joined John Alexander at the table and I am now just two boys shy of a middle infield or three shy of a travel basketball team. Between my wife and I we have a combined four sisters…so needless to say one boy was unexpected let alone two. My wife is a saint already…but now with two boys…three if you include me…I’m thanking her early and often for her patience. With the birth of Charlie I was able to take some time off from work, working out, and life in general. If you are not yet blessed with children…the time spent in the hospital during those initial days is an amazing time. It is like time stops and and the only thing that is present and that matters is you and your family. You are wrapped deep in your own little cocoon of happiness and wonder. For those three or four days, nothing else matters. Then the real world begins…
Coming home from the hospital, now a father of two, was a very sobering and eye opening event. Sure when our first was born there was anxiety and stress over being a new parent…and that didn’t go away with the second…but walking into my house that day I almost immediately started to question…how am I going to make this work? A full time job, full time family, and still have time to do things like go out to dinner with my wife, workout, and do the things that I want to do. How was I going to find the balance in my life between all of the things that make me happy and still maintain a semblance of sanity?
First things first…family always comes first. No questions about it…my wife and two sons are my priority in life. Being a husband, a father and a provider for them is the most important job I have and one that I have been looking for my entire life. There is nothing I would not do or sacrifice for them just to make their lives easier and more fulfilled. They are the fuel that drives me to push myself harder than I thought possible. My family also forces me to keep my head out of the clouds. Not that they hold me back but that they keep me focused on what is important in life. Love. Plain and simple. But there are so many other things that are needed. Is love enough? Sure…but we also need a roof over our heads, food on the table, and clothes on our back. Love and family provide a sanctuary from what is required to provide those essential pieces. Work.
My daily commute to work takes me from the suburbs to Manhattan on the ever fabulous MetroNorth Railroad. If you’ve never experienced MetroNorth…well…let’s just say it is a unique experience. This ride…door to door…takes up about three hours of my day. Add that on to a 9 hour work day…and you are looking at half of your typical week day spent at work. What does that leave during the week? About an hour (on a good day) for me at home to get my oldest into the bath and then into bed. This is quite possibly the best part of my day. Yes…I could move closer to the city…but all that would do would force me to be in the office longer. Life is a little unbalanced right now. The most time each day I get to spend with my youngest is the hour late night feeding session we have at anywhere between 12 and 2 am…this time is likely holds a tie for the best part of the day.
As I’ve said…life is a bit unbalanced these days…but I’m not looking for sympathy. I could do something else…and maybe some day I will…but right now…even though my life balance is off…it is providing what is needed to ensure that my family is happy, healthy, and there for me when I need them to be. Life is a journey…to be corny…life is a highway…in life however…there is no GPS to tell you where to go. You have to venture forth and figure it out for yourself. You have to find that balance. I’ll get there.
So recently I have been thinking a lot about this blog. Mostly because my domain registration and hosting renewals arrived into my inbox…but I have been thinking about it. If you are reading this then you have likely also seen that I have not added to the blog since April of last year. Six months of no writing…well…at least for this blog. I’ve written a few entries for other media outlets like DM News and iMedia Connection on email marketing. I don’t know what happened after that post in April that drove me to abandon the blog…but I can say now that I am dedicating myself to keeping this vehicle for self expression updated and active going forward.
So what does this all mean? Well…I am going to do my best to produce at least one posting on the blog per week. On what topics? Well…when it all boils down…I write about what I am interested in. My day job is in the digital agency/email marketing world…so I write about that. I have turned into a bit of a nut for CrossFit and have done a lot of work with my local affiliate BK Athletics…so I’ll probably write about that. My wife and I have recently been blessed with our second son and I love my family…so I’ll likely add a anecdote or two about the family and how life is now with two kids. (As a quick aside…it has been incredible!) Finally I’ll likely write about relevant topics in the news…throwing my opinion out there to see what sticks. Basically…I am going to be using this blog as a sounding board…as a way to let off some steam…and perhaps spark a discussion or two.
Like I said when I started this blog…would love for you guys to read it…engage…interact…and maybe learn a little bit, be it about me or another topic I write about. That said…I am going to be writing about things I care about…like…dislike…or just want to write about. If you don’t like what I am writing about…that’s cool…just jump ship back to your search engine of preference and find something else to read…doesn’t matter to me.
Well…there you go…dedicating myself to the blog once again…so…hope you guys will read…pretty sure my next post is going to be something related to work/family/life balance…a topic that has been top of mind for me recently.
It has been a long week. By the end of the day Tuesday I had been in a car traveling to and from client locations for a total of ten hours. That is a lot of time in a car over two days. Fortunately I was not driving…which allowed me to do a lot of work and a lot of thinking about what my next post might be for the site. It has been a little while since my last post so I decided to stay on the business side of things and talk about email. Consuming email through more than three different types of mobile devices this week (laptop, Blackberry, Galaxy Tab) I got to thinking about click-through and what prompts a user to take the action of clicking through on a piece of creative that ends up in the inbox…or maybe even the spam/junk folder. As someone in the email business…I get a ton of commercial email. At any given point in time my inbox is slammed with offers and promotions from clients, prospects, and other companies that I personally have an interest in. In looking through these creative and my experience with them…I’ve come up with some thoughts on why myself and others click-through…
1. Need – This one is fairly straight forward. People sign-up for newsletters, promotional emails, and other types of campaigns based on a need for a good or service. The reason why I am signed up for the daily email from Joseph A Bank is that as a businessman I have a need to wear a suit, a dress shirt, or another article of clothing that they sell. They also have great deals.
2. Annoyance – When people are annoyed at receiving an email, they click-through. They unsubscribe. They are either annoyed with the fact that someone sent them an email that they did not sign up for or maybe they’ve received too many emails in too short of a time period…there are a variety of reasons. As marketers it is important not to annoy your email recipients…nothing good can come of it.
3. Information – A person is apt to click through to a landing page based on the need for more information on an item or topic. Newsletters or transaction confirmation messages are a perfect example of where people may click through for more information. Isn’t that the whole point? How many conversions did you generate from someone just reading an email in their email client?
4. Curiosity – An intriguing email creative can entice a recipient to click through just because of the novelty of the creative. An edgy subject line, a funky look and feel to the HTML content are all factors in driving email activity and further click through. These can be the best of all click through. It shows just how much of an impact your creative team is having in terms of pushing the needle…driving action…driving conversion.
Is this an exhaustive list…no. All that travel just got me thinking about click through and what about a piece of creative or a subject line drives us to open and click. There are plenty of email I get that just end up directly in the trash bin…others just get a cursory look and then end up in the same place. What’s it all mean? I guess it is a long way of saying…be creative…you never know when an email recipient might need your product or service…or just be curious enough to click through and find out more.
Have a great weekend!
As you probably know from reading previous entries on this blog I work for a digital marketing services company called Zeta Interactive. And if you didn’t know, well, know you do. Working in the digital marketing space is great and I love every minute of it. The digital medium is constantly changing and innovating so it really helps keep things fresh and exciting. Not to mention challenging. Working in the digital arena I of course consume a lot of the different channels that it offers. You can find me on Twitter, Facebook, Linked-In, and of course you can reach me via email. (I even got my very own Facebook.com email address on Friday…I know…I’m an email geek) Being a participant in all of these areas I read a lot of posts, tweets, emails, and anything else in a digital format. The other day I came across a conversation on Twitter between a few of my followers regarding what constitutes an “expert” in a particular discipline. In this particular conversation it was regarding social media…but it made me wonder…can there really be such a thing as an “expert”? What does being an expert mean? How do you become one and who anoints you an expert?
Dictionary.com defines “expert” as the following:
– noun - a person who has special skill or knowledge in some particular field; specialist; authority: a language expert.
You’ll come to find that when discussing a term…I love going to the dictionary to start with my analysis. What better way is there to start to build a definition than to find out exactly what the word means and then break it down from there. It also runs in my family…so a bit hereditary. Anyway…back to the twitter conversation…
In this conversation a statement was made that a 23 year old person could not be a social media expert. I’m not certain I agree with that statement. Here is why. It’s been about 10 years since I left the hallowed grounds of Villanova University…and since then…things have changed. Facebook would not come out until two years later…Twitter two years after that…as well as numerous other technological enhancement. The reason why I set the stage in terms of timing is a matter of curriculum. I know from being an active reader of the alumni newsletter from Villanova that they are constantly changing their course offering to align with the latest and greatest technology, learning, and insights to produce the most well-rounded graduate they can. Social Media is one of these new areas of study. Now I am not saying that taking a course in social media makes you an expert but it does give you a wealth of knowledge about a subject or field that could qualify as “special”.
Bringing this a bit closer to home…I’ve worked in email for over nine years. Am I an expert? I don’t consider myself one but I would say that I am knowledgeable about the medium and have certain perspectives on the topic. Does that make me a “subject matter expert”? I don’t know. Do I have to work in the channel for 10 years before earning the title of expert? Is there an committee of other experts that I need to apply to in order to become an expert? To be honest…most of the experts I’ve met over the course of my professional and educational career do not call themselves experts. Are they knowledgeable about their given trade or discipline…sure. Do I consider them an expert? Most definitely. So maybe that is what makes an expert…validation from colleagues or contemporaries that an individual does have a special skill or knowledge about a subject.
Which leads me back to the tweet…I don’t know what background there was to the statement that a 23 year old is not a social media expert. It is certainly possible that the individual in question was not an expert. However if the statement was solely based on the age of the individual…I disagree with the statement wholeheartedly. Being an expert is based on the measurement of knowledge, not years on this earth. I’ve met plenty of people I consider experts that are much younger than I am. So…are you an expert?
So as most of you who have read this blog before know, I participate in a sport called CrossFit. In fact, in the time that has past since my last post in October, I’ve actually become a level one certified CrossFit trainer. I work out five days a week at 5:30 am at CrossFit Performance in Fairfield, CT. The reason for the back story is to set the stage for what I viewed as a colossal failure of the CrossFit organization in terms of the marketing of their brand, sport, and championship series.
The 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games, finding the fittest man/woman on earth.
Three years ago the CrossFit organization set out to find the fittest man and fittest woman on earth. The concept was to put together a two day event that included a variety of CrossFit disciplines and invite a group of elite athletes to get together and compete to determine who reigned supreme. Fast forward to the 2011 games…a Reebok corporate partnership and sponsorship…and you’ll land where we are today. Over 25,000 athletes registered to compete to see if they are the world’s fittest. There are three stages of competition the first of which is the open qualifier. This is followed by a regional competition and then finally the actual games. Athletes are broken up into five divisions: Men, Women, Masters Men, Masters Women, and Team. All athletes compete as individuals and their scores qualify for their team…or…for themselves in order to move on to the next round. The top 60 men and women in each region and the top 30 teams graduate from the open to the regionals. From Regionals no more than the top 3 men, women and teams make it to the Games. It is fierce competition. With a top prize of $250,000 for the top man and woman…it should be!
The Open is a six week process. During the Open on Tuesday night at 8:00 pm EST a workout is posted on the Games site. Athletes then have until Sunday to complete the workout and submit their scores on the Games website. The Open started on Tuesday, March 16th. Or…it was supposed to.
As you can imagine, with over 25,000 competitors…everyone was chomping at the bit to see what the first workout would be. Would it be 100 handstand push-ups for time? Would it be Fran? Everyone was stoked to see it. Twitter was buzzing…Facebook was crowded with CrossFit posts…it was CrossFit HQ’s time to shine. 7:55 pm EST…the Games site goes down…and it goes down hard. 404 errors followed by SQL errors followed by complete destruction. Crossfit HQ went silent. Crickets. As you can imagine…Twitter streams went bananas…everyone was posting all at once…it was chaos. It wasn’t until about 30 minutes after the workout was to be posted that the official Games twitter handle tweeted that the site was experiencing issues and the workout would be posted in 2 hours. Well…needless to say…that didn’t happen. Another post shortly there after stated that it would be 10 plus hours to get the site live and working correctly. Colossal failure.
The opening to your one and only major competition. A major corporate sponsor paying to sponsor their first event and you don’t load test your website, your database, and your other production level promotions. If this ever happened on one of my projects with a client…there would be hell to pay. The problem I have is with how CrossFit handled the failure. Not only was there very limited communication…in my opinion they totally botched the first week of the competition. After four days had past since the workout was posted…HQ came up with the great idea of letting all athletes have another full week to complete the workout. That is right…as a result of a 12 hour delay…all athletes would get seven extra full days to complete the required elements and post their scores. Want a curveball thrown in the middle of your training and preparation for the games…well there you go!
Where CrossFit HQ Went Wrong
As a marketer…I really do feel for CrossFit HQ. Their biggest night…the web site failure…and they panicked. They started to receive negative comments, feedback, phone calls, from thousands of people and tried to listen to everyone. Hindsight is always 20/20…disaster recovery planning is crucial for any big launch or project. Here are some other avenues that HQ could have traveled down and could have been able to keep the competition on schedule:
- CrossFit.com – HQ runs a website that posts a new workout and numerous other types of content everyday. It gets thousands of visitors and is built to handle volume. Why not post the workout on crossfit.com? Sure…athletes would have not been able to post scores…but who cares! Get the information out!
- Twitter/Facebook – Post the workout to Twitter and or Facebook. Again…the thing here is to get the word out! What better way than through social channels!
- Email – my personal favorite and the perfect way to get the information to the people who matter most…the athletes who were required to give you their email address when signing up to compete! Why would you not have an email that was setup to automatically deploy at 8:00 pm EST with the contents of the workout that would deploy to every athlete? Is there a more perfect vehicle for delivery information? (OK…I’m biased)
Now…instead of a six week competition…it is now a seven week competition. Ugh. A nightmare that could have well been avoided if there was planning, testing and common sense employed. A learning experience for sure…maybe a eye opener for some of the vendors being used…but definitely something to avoid moving forward. As a note…the second workout in the competition…was only about 40 minutes delayed…hey…that’s improvement!